Can You Go Swimming With a Shirt On? What You Need To Know!

When exercising, proper attire is essential. Wearing the correct clothing can benefit you and boost your performance, while the wrong one can be detrimental.

At Triathlon Budgeting, we’re constantly asked what to wear when training and competing. A common question is about swimming and whether wearing a shirt is okay.

So, can you go swimming with a shirt on? There are many reasons a person would want to swim with a shirt on, but it needs to be of a specific type. The average t-shirt from the wardrobe is not the best option.

Wearing shirts while swimming is something to consider if you’re uncomfortable displaying too much of your skin, for whatever reason, or are concerned about UV damage. Avoid cotton, dyed, and baggy ones, though. Ideally, purpose-made swim shirts are the best choice.

Not only with shirts, but it’s important to choose swimwear that is comfortable and fits well, as the wrong type of clothing can cause chafing, irritation, or other issues that can detract from your experience.

It’s also important to follow any dress codes or policies that may be in place at the pool or facility you are visiting.

Here’s a look at why people wear a shirt when swimming, then the wrong and the right ones.

Why Do People Swim With a Shirt On? (Reasons Listed)

There are some legitimate reasons to swim with a shirt on. Protection from the sun is one reason. Personal choices such as comfort, modesty, or medical conditions are also valid. Then there are cultural and religious reasons. Let’s look closer: (Source)

Sun Protection

Wearing a shirt while swimming can provide extra protection against harmful UV rays from the sun, which can cause sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer.

Personal Preference

Some people prefer to swim with a shirt on for personal reasons, such as to stay warm or to feel more comfortable and confident with more coverage. Not everyone wants people to see their body shape and prefer to keep it covered.


Some people may feel more modest with a shirt on, especially if they have scars, birthmarks, or other skin imperfections they’d rather others not see.

Medical Conditions

Wearing a shirt while swimming can help protect peoples‘ skin from medical conditions that cause irritation or sensitivity, such as eczema or psoriasis.

Cultural or Religious Reasons

In some cultures or religions where revealing parts of their bodies is considered inappropriate, it may be customary to dress modestly while swimming, which may involve wearing a shirt.

Why Are Some Shirts Not Allowed in Pools?

Many public swimming pools have strict rules on what clothing can be worn in the pool. For the sake of the pool and the safety of everyone, and to avoid chemical reactions, avoid wearing the following:


Shirts made of cotton can release fibers and particles that can clog pool filters and create maintenance issues for the pool. Also, cotton soaks up water and becomes heavy, which could cause a drowning hazard. 

For these reasons, many pools require that only swim-specific materials like nylon, polyester, or spandex be worn in the pool.

Dyed Clothing

Some types of dyes used in the printing of shirts can react with chemicals in pool water, such as chlorine, and create harmful or irritating compounds. 

For example, some dyes can create a yellow-green color when they come into contact with chlorine, which can stain the pool and irritate swimmers’ eyes.

Remember that chlorine can also cause damage to the dye as well, ruining the design of the shirt.

Loose-fitting or Long Sleeves 

A person wearing baggy clothes can pose a safety hazard in the pool as they can become tangled or weighed down, impairing their ability to move or stay afloat.

For these reasons, many pools have dress codes or policies that require swimmers to only wear swim-specific clothing. It’s important to check with the specific pool or facility before entering the water to ensure you’re wearing appropriate attire.

What Shirts Are Best for a Pool?

If you need to wear a shirt in the pool for sun protection or other reasons, it’s best to choose a shirt specifically designed for swimming. These shirts are typically made of materials like nylon, polyester, or spandex that are lightweight, quick-drying, and won’t release fibers or chemicals into the pool. They also have a snug fit and minimal seams to reduce drag and improve mobility in the water. (Source)

Swim Shirts VS Rash Vest

Some shirts are designed specifically for swimming, commonly known as “rash guards” or “swim shirts.” They’re made of materials that are lightweight, quick-drying, and offer a high level of sun protection but it’s not the same as a rash vest. 

Rashguard= tight (snug), form-fitting
Swim shirt= loose, conforms to the body 

We highly recommend that you check out our post Can You Wear a Rash Vest in a Swimming Pool & the Ocean? Complete Guide!

Both options often have flatlock seams, which are more comfortable and less likely to chafe the skin than traditional seams. Some swim shirts also feature a UPF rating, indicating the protection they offer against harmful UV rays from the sun.

Swim shirts and rash vests are available in various styles, colors, and designs, from basic solid colors to bold patterns and graphics. Check out the one we recommend (Amazon link)

Swim shirts are a popular choice for a variety of water activities, not just in the pool, like surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and snorkeling. 

They provide a comfortable and protective layer that can help prevent sunburn, skin irritation and other common issues associated with prolonged exposure to the sun and chlorinated or salt water.

What’s the Best Thing To Wear In a Pool?

The best thing to wear in a pool is attire specifically made for swimming, and the ideal choices are swimsuits or swimming trunks.


Swimsuits are the most common and widely accepted type of swimwear for both men and women. They’re designed to be lightweight, quick-drying, and comfortable in the water.

One-piece Swimsuits

One-piece swimsuits are also popular for women and are designed to be comfortable and secure in the water. They’re available in a range of styles and designs, from sporty and practical to high fashion and stylish.

Swim Trunks

Swim trunks are typically worn by men and are similar to shorts but made from materials designed for swimming — nylon, polyester, or spandex. They’re available in a range of lengths and styles.

Stephen Christopher

began running at the age of 50 and 2 years later ran his first marathon in just over 5 hours. He continues to join events all over Thailand and South East Asia with Berlin and London on the list for the future.

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